Director says show tops list of musical theater horror offerings

  • “Sweeney Todd” will be played at 7:30 p.m. from Thursday, October 27 through Saturday, October 29 and at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, October 30 at the Farmington Civic Center.
  • Tickets are $16 and $20.
  • Call 505-599-1144 or visit fmtn.org/shows.

FARMINGTON — In just a few short years, Randy West, supervisor of the Farmington Civic Center and director of the Four Corners Musical Theater Company, has established a strong tradition by having his company present a horror-related production in October in l honor of Halloween.

The canon of musical theater productions that fall into this category isn’t extensive, though it does have some notable and popular entries, including “The Rocky Horror Show,” which the company produced last year.

But West said there’s no doubt which show ranks as the first production residing at the intersection of horror and musical theater – it’s ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet’. Street,” which his company is performing during the second half of its two-week run this weekend.

“It’s the main dish in terms of complexity and sophistication,” West said, explaining that the production also ranks among the finest works of legendary lyricist and songwriter Stephen Sondheim’s long and distinguished career.

“Sweeney Todd” features very sophisticated and dense lyrics, as well as complicated harmonies, he said, but that only begins to explain its brilliance, West said. Virtually every significant character in the production, and every major action point, has its own musical motif, he said, and that essentially qualifies “Sweeney Todd” as an opera. This explains why it has been performed by so many opera companies over the years.

“It’s really a crossover piece between musical theater and opera companies,” West said.

These dense patterns and lyrics also serve another purpose, he said, noting the multidimensional nature of Sondheim’s work.

“I always think of Sondheim when it comes to layers,” West said. “He almost never wrote anything that goes in one direction.”

Indeed, he said, “Sweeney Todd” has undercurrents that only become apparent after multiple performances as a show evolves.

“We’re playing at levels that we didn’t have on opening night,” West said of his casting. “…You never hit rock bottom because he gives you so much to consider as an actor.”

Gareth West and Anne Runolfsson appear in a scene from the Four Corners Musical Theater Company production "Sweeney Todd."

One cast member is particularly good at plumbing those depths, he said, citing Broadway veteran Anne Runolfsson’s performance as Mrs. Lovett. Runolfsson, who by all accounts spectacularly filled Julie Andrews and Liza Minelli during the Broadway run of “Victor/Victoria” from 1995 to 1997 when these two stars fell ill, has few peers when ‘It’s about fully exploring a character’s psyche, says West.

“Anne is kind of a master class at playing the nuances of something,” he said. “…She works constantly. It’s fascinating.

Runolfsson is joined in the cast by James Sasser in the lead role, alongside Matt Aaron, Shannon Cochran, Kevin Rains, Sean McCall, Gareth West, Tanner Berry, Margaret Clair, Bryan Songy, Chase Cashion, Brandon Santos, Amber Glasgow, Primrose Bloom, Melissa Stewart, Sarah Harkness, Ruby Doolittle, Carolyn Savoia, Andrea Moore, Concetta Russo, Mikaelah O’Connor and Elizabeth Trattles.

That works out to a cast of 22, and while that’s a significant number, West noted that some “Sweeney Todd” productions feature as many as 48 performers. He joked that his lean production was known in the company as “Teeny Todd”.

The show also features a nine-member orchestra led by Steven Zumbrun.

James Sasser, left, Margaret Clair and Anne Runolfsson appear in a scene from the Four Corners Musical Theater Company production "Sweeney Todd."

While the series certainly has its fair share of comedic moments, West noted that “Sweeney Todd” is also emotionally complex and deeply moving – as well as offering enough bloody moments to satisfy any Halloween thrill seeker.

“You laugh, you cry, you cut up a few bodies and you cut them into meat pies,” West said deadpan. “So it’s just a typical musical theater night.”

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” will be performed by the Four Corners Musical Theater Company at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 27 through Saturday, October 29 and at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, October 30 at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. tickets are $16 and $20. Call 505-599-1144 or visit fmtn.org/shows.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.